So, for most of us Christmas is a wonderful time, but for one friend of mine it’s been a horribly stressful and upsetting experience. Sadly, it doesn’t look to be ending any time soon. Let me explain –
Many months ago my friend, let’s call her Sally, discovered her boyfriend had been cheating with someone she knew. They broke up, he moved out and that was that. Sort of.
Her exes new girlfriend then embarked on a campaign of abuse on social media which has lasted for almost six months.
Daily posts and jibes and comments targeted at Sally. It’s been a constant onslaught which has been witnessed by everyone she knows and has left her hurt, frightened and beyond upset. It’s reached the point where it’s starting to impact on her working life too. In short, it’s Not. Good.
Okay, I hear you say, so what’s the problem?
Well, she’s not named in the posts and they aren’t posted on her own social media pages – which she has basically shut down / locked or abandoned altogether in recent months – too afraid to go online and interact with her friends because of the risk of coming across something upsetting – and with so many people in common, and the way that some sites show you other friends comments or likes etc then there’s always a risk of something upsetting coming up in her sidebar.
The nature of the posts have been sly and calculated – targeted comments about her appearance, her job, her home – too many to be a co-incidence. So far she has managed to brush much of it off, determined not to take too much to heart. But in the last two weeks the campaign has stepped up – the new girlfriend has taken to name calling and refering to Sally openly as her BF’s ex, making it very clear who she is targeting. The name calling and slurs have been about Sally’s appearance, about her job, about her hobbies. Systematically targeting everything that makes Sally who she is. And all the while the new girlfriend is posting comments about how ‘classy’ and ‘elegant’ she is and what a ‘real lady’ she is – oh the irony. And all of her nasty targeted comments have been approved and liked by the BF – which is just disturbing in itself – I mean, who sees their partner acting in that way towards another human being and thinks that it’s acceptable and normal?
And it is breaking my heart because it’s so hard to prove or to stop this kind of thing.
We’ve seen far too many people driven to extreme measures by this sort of online bullying, and that’s what it is. Bullying.
It’s a deliberate, targeted and malicious attack which has left a wonder, amazing person hurt and desperate.
Now, Sally is smart and she is tough and she did what I would have done – she went straight to the source of the problem and she spoke to both her ex and his new girlfriend and asked them to stop.
It got worse.
I even asked her ex to have a word and make it stop. But nothing.
The law makes it very difficult to do anything about cyber bullying. It’s hard to prove and hard to make stick – which is why so many people get away with it.
So, instead of enjoying Christmas like everyone else, Sally spent it upset, and I spent it taking screenshots and finding out how to get a restraining order in Ireland. Bad times.
(I do have to wonder about the mental health of someone who is so obsessed with their partner’s ex-girlfriend that they even spend CHRISTMAS DAY posting insults about her. That leve of obsession is truly frightening.)
I’ve posted in the past about anti-social media, and how the instant aspect of the internet has been part of the problem – there’s no time to calm down and think anymore. You can just say it and put it out there. And the whole world can see it.
And even when using their own name bullies seem to think they are operating under anonymity – like the internet isn’t the real world and nothing they say actually matters or can be held against them. But that just isn’t the case. Words can hurt. They can do real damage to people. They can ruin reputations and destroy relationships. I’ve seen entire professional reputations destroyed because of bullying campaigns.
And friends don’t always help – ‘liking’ negative comments only furthers the problem. You might even think it’s funny and all in jest, or that you are supporting your friend but sometimes you need to remember that there is another person on the recieving end and you can’t alway see the damage you are doing.
Bullies don’t take responsibility for their words, which is the problem. With no concept of responsibility and no one to answer to for their actions, bullies get away with it. Destroying lives.
So folks, my plea today – don’t stand back and allow it to happen. Take a stand. Speak up.
Own your words.